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Viewpoint: Farmers turn to internet to bring back local markets

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Henry Bennett

The holidays are a hectic time for every major industry, and agriculture is not excluded from that list. As the new year gets underway, we have a chance to give special attention to the farmers who help make celebrations across the country possible. Agricultural professionals are crucial to rural communities and urban centers alike, and their contributions are integral to our society.

The farming community in Delaware faced a unique set of challenges over the past 20 months. COVID raised costs for farmers and created a shortage of workers. In addition, the farmers markets, from which so many farmers derive their sales, closed due to health concerns. My own farm, Bennett Orchards, experienced all of these hardships.

When times were tough, farmers across the state turned to advocating for local farmers markets to be reinstated. Unfortunately, Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse did not allow farmers markets to open, issuing guidance that we felt was contrary to other guidance on restrictions and hurt Delaware farmers as neighboring states continued operating their markets.

In response, I, along with other farmers across Delaware, took to social media to create an advocacy campaign that expressed our desire to reopen the markets and emphasized the importance of farmers markets to legislators. On our Facebook page, we used boosted advertisements, stories, and posts to convey the stress on the farming industry, with content tailored to both reach our local customers and Delaware’s decision makers. We also used these boosted posts to advertise seasonal promotions at Bennett Orchards, as seen with our blueberry and peach harvests.

Because of our campaign, Gov. John Carney announced that farmers markets could reopen. When the local markets opened again, we made the appropriate adjustments to our operations. Understanding the impact of the pandemic and maintaining a priority of customer safety, farmers across our state pivoted to contactless pickup and payment methods so the markets could resume again.

While the agricultural industry continues to recover from the challenges inflicted by COVID-19 and the lockdowns, it is important that we advocate on behalf of all agricultural professionals that have a significant impact on our economy. Farmers worked tirelessly to provide quality food and produce to our communities, but they still need local support to thrive.

This year, join me in continuing to advocate with our policymakers to convey the interests of small businesses – especially farmers – and their importance to our state’s economy.

Henry Bennett is the owner of Bennett Orchards in Frankford.

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